For being the best closer available on the free-agent market, Rafael Soriano hasn’t generated much news this month.
But Soriano should try very hard to keep it that way, at least for the time being.
Soriano would do himself a great disservice if he signs quickly, because the demand for him should grow in the coming weeks.
His agent, Scott Boras, is well aware of that. Boras didn’t linger at this week’s general managers’ meetings, hoping to hammer out Soriano’s next contract. He flew home late Wednesday night.
At the moment, very few contenders are openly searching for an expensive closer like Soriano. The Angels, widely predicted as his eventual landing spot, are one such club. But a number of others — the Braves, Indians, Brewers, Pirates and Nationals — appear willing to trust closers who have never handled the job over a full season in the majors.
Just wait, though.
The marketplace could soon be populated by the right kind of buyers.
Consider the following scenarios, none of them farfetched:
•The Red Sox acquire Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks for a package that includes Jonathan Papelbon or Daniel Bard, thus leaving a major gap in the back of the Boston bullpen — in the near- and long-term.
•The Rangers lose free agent Cliff Lee to the Yankees and replace him with current closer Neftali Feliz.
•The White Sox find that there are no takers on the trade market for pricey Bobby Jenks, coming off his worst major-league season. They decline to tender him a contract but keep Matt Thornton in the setup role where he has excelled.
Suddenly, the Angels would have company in the Soriano market — from large-market clubs.
Think Boras might be able to take advantage of that?
The sales pitch is ready.
“You want to know the impact of this closer on a team?” Boras asked over the phone early this morning. “Without him in 2009, Tampa Bay didn’t make the playoffs. With him this year, it won the division.
“Closers who convert save opportunities above the 90th percentile are rare. And he’s only 30 years of age. [Note: He turns 31 next month.] This is a rare opportunity for a team. A closer of this caliber — at 30 — is almost never in the marketplace. They are rare.
“When you don’t obtain them, and the team doesn’t win, the fans have something to point at.”
Boras frequently cites historical comparisons when negotiating with clubs. In this case, he has particularly good ammunition.
After the 2007 season, Francisco Cordero signed a four-year, $46 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds.
Cordero was 32 at the time. So, Soriano has the advantage of being younger.
Cordero was more durable than Soriano — by a margin of 55 innings — over the three-year horizon that preceded their respective free agencies. But Soriano’s performance was statistically superior over that span. And his best season — the most recent one — came while facing the fearsome Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays in the American League East.
Soriano isn’t drawing the same attention as fellow Boras clients Jayson Werth and Adrian Beltre. But there are some very good reasons why his negotiation might take the longest of that group.
AROUND THE HORN
•The Pirates are comfortable with their internal options at closer, Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan. But one source suggested that Pittsburgh could deal one of the two and sign a replacement.
•Something worth keeping in mind about free agent David Eckstein: His brother Rick is the Washington Nationals’ hitting coach.
•Even after agreeing to a three-year deal with Joaquin Benoit, the Tigers are looking for bullpen help. Only now, they would like to add a left-hander. J.C. Romero is one name they are considering.
•Though it’s dangerous to suggest such a thing at this time of year, the Atlanta Braves may only need minor tweaking between now and Opening Day. They would like to add a right-handed-hitting first baseman and a left fielder (maybe Scott Podsednik?) who can play part-time.